Nestled on the eastern shore of Lake Biwa, Hikone is a picturesque city centred around a beautifully preserved castle. It’s a popular destination for bird watching and cycling and is near Taga’s historic shrine.
Things to do in Hikone
At the heart of Hikone is the Edo Period Hikone Castle, one of only five National Treasure-listed castles in Japan. Admire its original keep, then discover its fascinating history at the Hikone Castle Museum where traditional Noh costumes, Edo-era swords, furnishings and calligraphy are displayed.
Spend a day along the scenic shores of Lake Biwa, which is the largest freshwater lake in Japan and is famed for the migratory birds. Keep an eye out for various species of heron, ducks and snowy egrets as you explore the perimeter trails on foot or by bicycle.
Make a day trip to the small town of Taga and the 7th-century Taga-Taisha Shrine, which is associated with long life, good fortune and happy relationships. Stroll along the main street of Otagasan, which is lined with souvenir stalls and leads to the shrine’s large torii gate. Explore the inner shoin gardens, designated as a national Place of Scenic Beauty.
Combine a visit to Taga with the 9th-century temple of Saimyō-ji, which features a three-storey pagoda decorated with murals. Admire the beautiful Main Hall that was constructed without the use of nails from hinoki cypress, then stroll through the Honbō garden that’s planted with Japanese maples, cherry blossoms and rhododendrons.
Getting around Hikone
Hikone is 1.5 hours by train from Kyoto, while Nagoya Airport is just over an hour’s drive away. Buses travel throughout Hikone, while the castle and lake are within walking distance of the main train station.